Everton seem to have had an extra game or two over their relegation rivals now for most of the run in to the end of the season and entering into the final week, they (somehow) are still in this position, at least as far as Leeds United goes.
Win tonight and the team are safe; anything less and it goes down to the last day and a visit to the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal and already frayed Evertonian nerves would be dangerously close to breaking point.
Burnley are occupying the final relegation spot currently, but are in the same boat as the Blues, having two matches left to play.
The Toffees supporters were out in force last Sunday, ramping up the atmosphere hours before the game against Brentford and the Grand Old Lady was rocking during the early part of the match, as Everton started brightly and go a goal up. But what followed was a near total collapse, as Frank Lampard saw two leads squandered and two players sent off.
Desperate fans will be doing their utmost again tonight, in what promises to be an tense and pivotal game “under the lights”, with everything on the line against Crystal Palace.
Patrick Vieira’s outfit have already dispatched the Blues twice this season, under Lampard and former boss Rafa Benitez, so will be coming in feeling confident. The former Arsenal star is rightly earning plaudits for the job he’s being doing in south London in his first campaign in charge and is up for Manager of the Season. It’s strange to think that Palace have won only the same number of league games as Everton (ten), but context is everything and compared to the chaotic and underachieving Merseysiders, they’ve been a study in control and planning and appear to be on an upward trajectory as a club.
Vieira has accomplished a remarkable turnaround in style of play and the makeup of the squad. Gone is the low block safety first approach favoured by former manager Roy Hodgson, replaced by fast, progressive football and a team full of promising youngsters, anchored by a few experienced players such as Wilfried Zaha and Joachim Anderson. Palace have a couple of talented young defenders in Marc Guehi and Tyrick Mitchell, the on-loan Conor Gallagher running the midfield and plenty of pace and trickery supplied by Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, along with the mercurial Zaha.
The Eagles enter tonight’s match sitting in 13th place, though with an outside chance of a top-half finish and on decent form, with two wins and two draws from their last four. They will likely stick to their typical 4-3-3, despite playing 3-5-2 last time out.
Crystal Palace 4-0 Everton, March 20th 2022
Everton arrived at Selhurst Park for this FA Cup Quarter Final coming off a win against Newcastle United and started the match on top, pinning the hosts in their own half in the early going and forcing errors which they were unable to take advantage of. Following Andros Townsend’s departure due to injury, the visitors were unable to maintain their energetic and aggressive start and were soon picked apart in alarming fashion, their high line and pedestrian defence exposed ruthlessly. Two nil down at the half, the Blues never threatened to get back in the game and shipped two late goals to end a humiliating afternoon in the capital.
Lampard confirmed the continuing absence of Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph. Ben Godfrey and Donny van de Beek will be available for selection, though probably from the bench. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is good to go after being seen to leave the pitch gingerly at the weekend. Michael Keane is recovered from the illness that kept him out against Brentford.
What they Said
Everton boss Frank Lampard: “[on Richarlison being more likely to score from wide areas] I know about that stat but I'm not sure if that’s the case of how the balance of the team looks up front”
“It’s great having Dominic back, particularly with the performance that he showed against Brentford... very powerful, very fit looking”
“[can he harness a sense of injustice to aid the team’s mentality] it’s all about focussing on ourselves and being ready for the game”
“[is he approaching tonight's game as all or nothing] no, it’s not. If you approach it (as) all or nothing and we don’t get the right result, do you then try and rekindle the fact that we’ve got a game to come?”
“It’s nice that it’s in our hands, that if we can put in the right performance...tap into the atmosphere...then we know that we have an opportunity to get where we want to be”
“[on Palace] you saw a team that put in a very good performance against Aston Villa...that has opportunities to maybe move a couple of places up the table...driven by a coach who was always a winner... and I expect nothing but the best version”
“I thank our fans a lot...because of the impact they've had on the team, particularly in recent weeks. They’ll try and make it a special night for Goodison, historically it could be a big night for us because we know the situation”
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira: “They (Everton) need a win and we expect of course a tough game”
“[on the teams’ previous meeting] I learned a lot about the players...how do you manage the game when you are a in very difficult period?...in the first 20 minutes... they were really good...we managed really well that difficult period”
“[on Lampard at Everton] it is really challenging and difficult when a manager goes in the middle of the season, when the team doesn’t have much confidence”
“[on playing 3-5-2 last time out] what is important for me is choosing one or the other (system)…(that) players feel comfortable...playing that way”
“[on Everton] it will be not different from the last game they played. They will be playing with a lot of pressure...they will be really aggressive... from the first minute they’ll be up in our face”
Everton really do not want to let their survival chances rest on either their relegation rivals continuing to fail, or for themselves to have to get a result at the Emirates on Sunday. After squandering an opportunity at Watford and then taking a huge misstep last weekend they have a chance tonight to put things right and get the three points that are so desperately required.